A Palestinian politician won applause from a J Street crowd this weekend for demanding that Israel recognize an idea that implies that the creation of the Jewish state was a "catastrophe."
Senior Fatah official Husan Zumlot, speaking during a panel discussion at this weekend's National J Street Conference, argued that not only should Palestinian refugees be granted the right of return, but that there should also be a "full recognition of the Nakba that has befallen our people."
According to Tablet, "Zomlot’s call received sustained and sure applause from the delegates in the hall." "Nakba" means "catastrophe," and Nakba Day is recognized annually in the Palestinian territories.
J Street’s approval Zumlot's call to recognize the Nakba is problematic for a group that claims to be pro-Israel, explains Tablet.
Backing for the recognition of the Nakba, too, is problematic. While the displacement of Palestinian refugees is a matter of historical record, the use of the term nakba—meaning disaster or catastrophe—is done in order to indicate that in addition to the refugee crisis, the creation of Israel is in itself part of the tragedy. The Israeli political class has been reluctant therefore to recognize the Nakba, and has called for acknowledgement also of the exodus of between 800,000 and one million Sephardim from the Middle East and north Africa following the Wars of Independence.
Furthermore, the crowd's rousing support for the right to return indicates that the J Street delegation is in disagreement with J Street’s official possition on the issue. More from Tablet:
Such approval for the right of return departs from J Street’s official position on the subject, which is in line with the Zionist mainstream. ‘The refugee issue should be negotiated and resolved as part of an agreement between official Israeli and Palestinian authorities and endorsed by both peoples. J Street would support the approach outlined in commonly accepted models of a two-state solution under which the vast majority of refugees would be resettled outside the internationally recognized borders of Israel, while receiving compensation.’
Indeed, calling for the return of Palestinians displaced during the Wars of Independence (and their descendants) is regarded as an anti-Zionist position, one which would undermine Israel’s position as a homeland for the Jewish people. ‘The return to Israel of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their families’ is ‘incompatible with our vision of Israel and incompatible with a two-state solution to the conflict,’ J Street argued in May 2012, in response to the growing influence of the BDS movement, which supports such recognition.